Anthony Pilkington
Anthony Pilkington celebrates putting the Republic of Ireland in front against the United States in Dublin. Reuters

A year that included spectacular highs at the World Cup ended for the United States men’s national team with a crushing 4-1 loss to the Republic of Ireland in Tuesday’s friendly in Dublin. Slow starts to each half for Jurgen Klinsmann’s men proved costly, with Anthony Pilkington putting the hosts in front seven minutes into the opening period and Robbie Brady restoring the Irish lead three minutes into the second. Mix Diskerud had equalized shortly before halftime, when the Americans appeared to be finding their feet. But the U.S. team, continuing a worrying recent trend, faded badly after the break to allow an impressive second-string Irish team to take command and eventually run out comfortable winners thanks to James McClean’s late deflected strike and a fine free-kick from Brady.

It means the U.S. finish 2014 without a win in its final four matches as its post-World Cup slump goes on. At the Aviva Stadium late goals were again a factor, as they were in draws with Ecuador and Honduras on home soil as well in a defeat to Colombia in London last week. A meeting with an Ireland team fresh from a costly Euro 2016 qualifying defeat to Scotland and featuring a much-changed lineup, presented a chance for the U.S. side to end the year on a high note and get another impressive win on the road in Europe under Klinsmann’s charge. Instead the German coach has much to work on as he looks ahead to next year’s Copa America, and in the long term, the next World Cup in Russia in 2018.

The first goal early on provided a sign of things to come for the visitors. A sloppy give away in midfield left the U.S. defense all at sea to allow debutante David McGoldrick to find the run of the impressive Pilkington, who finished with a clever finish over the advancing Bill Hamid. While Fabian Johnson hit the outside of the post with a low drive following a rehearsed-corner routine corner, Hamid was forced into a fine save to prevent Daryl Murphy from putting Ireland two goals to the good.

Still, the Americans began to keep better possession as the half wore on and six minutes before the interval they were level. This time it was Ireland that gave up the ball in a dangerous area. Diskerud pressured David Meyler into the error and the midfielder went forward into the box to meet Chris Wondolowski’s clever head down from Jozy Altidore’s cross with a strike into the corner of the net.

Altidore soon had a chance to put his side in front, but his first-time strike from Alejandro Bedoya’s pull-back crashed back off the crossbar. The second half only brought more frustration for Klinsmann’s side. Shortly after the restart they were behind when good high pressure from the hosts led to Johnson finding an Irish shirt on the edge of the box and, after McGoldrick again supplied a classy assist, Brady finished with authority.

Substitute Bobby Wood was denied by a superb save by the feet of Shay Given as the U.S. briefly threatened a comeback, but defensive woes ensured a second-straight loss. After substitute Shane Long had rampaged past Matt Besler down the left and struck a post, Geoff Cameron’s poor clearance allowed McClean an effort on goal that deflected off the Stoke City defender and past the wrong-footed Hamid. Then to add insult to injury for the Americans, Brady capped his eye-catching display by curling a free-kick into the top corner with four minutes remaining.